The boys quickly decided that they wanted to play in the sandpits and I obliged. While they were entertaining themselves - largely through a game I'll call "Running and Falling Over Safely" - I overheard a conversation taking place about ten metres away. Two fathers, who had obviously just met, were talking about the Easter Show with some verve and wit, shuttling effortlessly between good natured-humour and rye skepticism. They ventured some interesting observations about the child psychology of rides and I found myself quickly wanting to weigh in - to offer some crucial distinctions between those kinds of rides that spin around and those go quickly in one direction, as I feel they require different dispositions and perhaps even types of courage. Then, with a segue worthy of Frank Zappa - simultaneously graceful and surreal - they moved onto scientific calculators and what had changed about them in the last ten years. It was almost irresistible; I wanted to be included - but it was hard to justify my move across to join in.
Within minutes, however, they broke up. The guy who I judged to be the more interesting of the two excused himself and wandered off. This would have made it easier to chat to the high-school physics teacher, but I had my eye on Interesting Guy and he had gone. I asked a leading question of the Sol and Dom: "Do you boys want to do something else?" When they're not mechanically contrarian, children are highly suggestible. I eyed my target across the way, at the base of the slides. "How about the slides?" "Yeahhhhh!" But as soon as we left the sandpit enclosure, Solly darted off to look at himself in the bendy mirrors. Foiled. "Dom, do you still want to go on the slides?" "Yessss! Sliiiii!" Dom and I began to wander towards the slides, but about half-way there, Interesting Guy again shifted position, now moving in the direction of Sol and the funny mirrors. "Dom. Where's Solly?" Dom saw Sol over by the bendy mirrors and began running at him. With Dom's pace, we'd beat Interesting Guy there - and so would avoid having to make the approach. Interesting Guy stopped, in fact, just near the bendy mirrors - his boy wanted to spin around on...a Spinning Around Pole Thing. The distance between us wasn't great, but it was still too far to "chat." If I already knew him I'd be able to call out a few things, but it's not the way you start an adult relationship in a playground. Dom, however, began to walk over in the direction of Interesting Guy.
It looked set. I checked myself in a bendy mirror. My head appeared enormous, but perhaps this would be seen by him as a sign of intelligence. But again, disaster. Without warning, Interesting Guy left once once more. This time I'd had enough of his toying with my affections and so I decided to give up. It was just too humiliating, and maybe he might even think I was stalking him. After a while I looked up and noticed that he'd gone back to the sandpits, to see his old flame, the maths teacher. Tart. If he couldn't see my conversational value, then that was his problem, not mine; I didn't want him, or his interesting conversation.
After about half an hour of distorting ourselves in mirrors (during which most of the time I appeared small and insignificant), Solly made an announcement: "I want to play on the bridge." OK - the bridge. We started heading over and who should we see at the top of the hill near the bridge? Right. Interesting Guy. I couldn't get my hopes up, though - he'd hurt me too much already. I hung off to the side of the hill, playing hard to get, adjusting children's clothing and applying sunscreen. When he looked towards me I coyly looked away. Eventually, contact was forced. Dom decided that he was going to climb the hill to get onto the bridge and this would require some parental supervision. Eventually I was standing almost by his side, looking at our kids and occasionally giving him a smile. His own two children were racing, with the bridge serving as part of their course. As they approached they were pushing each other out of the way. Interesting Guy gently - but firmly - intoned: "Hey, be nice." The boy gave way and then the girl shot past him on the bridge. The boy, now aggrieved, called out, "Hey!" Here was my opportunity.
Smiling at his kids - or perhaps even "Kids-in-General" - I offered. "Nice guys finish last!" He smiled, or rather winced, back at me and said "C'mon kids, it's time to go. We've got to go see Aunty Millie." Yeah right. I bet they don't even have an Aunty Millie. And it was a joke.
Dr Prisonsong baby later suggested that my relentless pursuit combined with my tight pink t-shirt might have suggested a homosexual advance. If so, I'm kicking myself. I can't believe I fell for a homophobe.